Saturday, January 07, 2012

When Are Two Wheels Better Than Four ? NEVER !

Yesterday, for the want of anything better to do, I decided to bike into town.

Now I like biking as it gets me around the park quicker than walking AND I get exercise. I love the feel of the wind through my hair and........

Ok I'll stop right there before I lose credibility altogether !

But I do like biking.

So as it was a little bit chilly, I donned my hooded fleece, slipped on my ENGLAND baseball cap to protect my bald pate from the sun and made sure the batteries were fully charged on my portable gramophone, or mp3 as you young 'uns would call it.

Within seconds, I was out of the park and on the backroad. As in, collapsed in a heap as I'd paused at the stop sign and fallen over ! Only kidding. I was out on Skipper Road with a 2 mile stretch ahead of me as straight as if the Romans had built it.

Flat too, but then all roads are flat here. That's why I like biking.

At the end of Skipper Road I crossed over onto Sparta Road which would take me all the way to US-27 and Sebring. I'd decided to set off at a leisurely pace and then, once warmed up, increase it to...a leisurely pace. If it's one thing I've learned about biking as I've gotten older, it's to pace myself. Start slowly and keep it that way. My days of explosive bursts of acceleration are long gone and anyway, they only tended to happen after cresting a steep hill and freewheeling down the other side.

When I was in my 30's, I once got to 38mph on a downhill near Otley. I also got a free facelift, several bugs in my teeth and shattered nerves when I realised that putting on the brakes at that speed would probably set fire to the rubber, rendering them useless. My whole life flashed before me, as did 3 astonished pedestrians, several birds devouring some road kill and the "No Trespassing" sign I totally ignored as I shot like a WMD into a field handily placed at the bottom of the hill.

Speaking of road kill, I was no sooner tootling along Sparta Road, when I came upon 5 or 6 vultures tucking into some recently deceased critter that I didn't feel the need to examine too closely. Not that there was much left TO examine but judging by the amount of blood splatter on the road (thank you CSI), it had been a critter of serious proportions.

One vulture was standing off to one side so rather than disgust you with a photo of his mates literally tearing into their lunch, I'll give you a photo of him. In case you are eating. Ever thoughtful, eh ?

Feel free to gasp at its awesomeness. Marvel at its majesty. Recoil at its ugliness !

Due in no small measure to stopping to witness this a la carte feeding frenzy, it took me 45 minutes to get to the end of Sparta Road and the junction with US-27, a distance of just over 6 miles. And I felt as fresh as a daisy.

Feeling that way, I should've turned around and rode back, but did I ?

I hate hind sight.

I peddled about for a while, riding into motel car parks trying to get views around the lake that I'd never seen from the car. Most properties around the lake are private houses but occasionally there are hotels, motels and businesses which didn't seem to mind an old Brit on a bike wanting to go to the edge of their land to get photogenic views across the water.

Not that I ever stopped to ask.

There was a beach ! Who knew !?

By now I was hungry and not having taken any water with me, very thirsty. But I was in Sebring. The metropolis. Bursting with restaurants, cafes, bars and fast food joints. Ok you try going into any of those with a bike and you'll see my dilemma. I realised that with everyone driving here, my bike was very unlikely to be stolen if left outside but with no security chain and being 6 miles from home with no phone, I wasn't about to put that theory to the test. It would be a long, long walk.

Fast food ? Surely that would be my best choice. In and out quickly and perhaps able to keep an eye on the bike whilst ordering and receiving my food ?

So I set off northwards on the excellent bike path that "runs" around the lake. The buildings on the far side were casting lovely reflections on the water but were too far away to be of much interest, photographically. Then I came upon a couple fishing from their speedboat and with them in the foreground, the background took care of itself.

On the other side of US-27 stood the imposing Spanish style Harder Hall hotel and I'd always wanted a photo of it across yet another stretch of water called Little Lake Jackson. To do this I had to cross 8 lanes and a wide median and not being near to any traffic lights, it took me sometime to achieve this.

I went into a dentist's office and asked if I could go to the side of the building to photograph the hotel and was granted permission. This view is what patients would see whilst in "the chair" and it sure beats anything I'm likely to see from my dentist's chair in suburban Leeds !

The very pink 134 room hotel was built in the mid 20's during the boom years in Sebring but since 1982, it has been lying vacant after a series of owners either went bankrupt or simply ran out of funds for its restoration. Despite being close to being demolished a few times, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places and was finally purchased by the city - who also don't know what to do with it !

I had to cross US-27 again to get back onto the bike path and then I continued northwards to find somewhere to eat/drink. I did realise these were miles I would have to endure on the way back but at the time, the daisy freshness was still upon me.

I stopped off at a Panera Bread outlet as I knew it had wifi and I could share my adventures with the Facebook world ! I posted this photo.

Onwards and northwards I finally called it a day at a Dairy Queen. I really needed something refreshing and yet light as the last thing I needed on the return trip was my stomach trying to digest a burger, fries and drink with my little legs pumping up and down at the same time. Not a good combination. I knew from previous visits to this DQ that I'd never see my parked bike from inside so I needed inspiration.

Knowing my bike would never trigger the "Welcome to Dairy Queen....may I take your order" weighbridge, I waited until a car was going through the drive thru and I followed it to the pay and delivery window. As the girl leaned out to give them their food, I asked if she could take my order ? She laughed and said of course so I ordered a cherry blizzard and as she passed it to me, her smile give my now aching legs the impetus to get me around the corner where I almost collapsed onto an outdoor chair.

The blizzard was like nectar to my parched throat and I rested there for some time, eating it slowly and savouring every spoonfull - although the view wasn't the most memorable.

Now despite what THEY tell you, it's not always a good thing to get back in the saddle. My butt was sore, my thighs were sore, my stomach was very cold and the last of the daisy freshness was but a distant memory. A bit like Buttonwood Bay, a good 10 miles southwards.

You'll not be surprised to learn that I took NO photographs on the ride back. If the camera had been mounted on the handlebars and looking back at me, I could've been the poster child for the Spanish Inquisition. I had to stop 4 times to rest and anyone seeing me getting slowly and painfully off the bike would've dialled 911 and asked for an ambulance with a hoist !

I'd set off at 11:10am and got back to the park at 3:30pm. The vast majority of that time my ass had been sitting, bouncing and generally rubbing the sides of a piece of torturous pseudo leather designed, I am convinced, by the Marquis de Sade. I'd ridden 21.63 miles and felt every .3 of it.

The good news was that from the waist up, I felt great.

Sadly, from the waist down, I couldn't feel much at all. My legs were on fire and my butt cheeks were probably as pink as Harder Hall !

But 24 hrs later and I'm happy to report that I rode around the park again this afternoon. Ok so it was more .63 than 21.63 but I was back 'in' the saddle and feeling good.

Now then, where's this Orlando place I hear so much about and do they have parking for bikes ?!


Milo said...

As a fellow biker I'm glad to hear about your biking exploits! Cycling is brilliant for personal fitness and wellbeing - so well done! And the old adage 'no pain, no gain' will always ring true!

Jennyta said...

You are lucky having all that flat land to cycle round. I like cycling too but here, bits of flat are hard to come by.
2 things:
-take a bike lock with you next time.
-you can get gel seats for bikes, which make a more comfortable ride for the old posterior. Keith has one and it works for him.

rhymeswithplague said...

I do not want to think about your butt cheeks being probably as pink as Harder Hall....

I will think instead about movies of the 1940s. Let's see, there's How Green Was My Valley...

Katherine said...

Lovely post. A great chortle. That was a good ride to start off with!

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

Good grief, man, why on earth would you do that to yourself? Don't you know you're supposed to start off slowly? ROFL!!!

Beautifully written, as always. I particularly liked the fine example of a zeugma string.

Silverback said...

Jenny, I have two barrel lock chains around my bike - I get them and then forget the combinations.
As for gel seats, yes I tried them once but strangely I couldn't find the gel when I got off !!

Glad you noticed it, Jay. (teehee)

Yes it was a nice gentle start, Katherine. Thanks for the comment.

Bob, you KNOW you'll be thinking of my pink cheeks for a few weeks now !

Milo, I think all the pain could be coming your way if you keep biking to work in London !

Bike Locks said...

One vulture was standing off to one side so rather than disgust. You with a photo of his mates literally tearing into their lunch.

Silverback said...

Bike Locks.....I think you've not quite grasped the finer points of spamming. I mean if you want to try and get people to visit your business, at least make the effort to actually write a comment and don't just copy (badly) a part of the blog.

Open face helmet said...

My days of explosive bursts of acceleration are long gone and anyway, they only tended to happen after cresting a steep hill and freewheeling down the other side.

essae said...

Wonderful article...............
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